Skip to main content

Full text of "The Gay Genius"

See other formats

33o                             THE GAY GENIUS .

sivc at Tanchow and my supplies are running out. My son and I arc
thinking oŁ practising this art of eating sunshine. April 19, 1099."

Actually, Su Tungpo never had to starve. His good friends and
neighbours would not have permitted it. The impression is that he had
rather a carefree life. One day he was carrying a huge water-melon j
on his head and singing on his way through the fields. An old peasant'
woman over seventy said to him: "Hanlin, you were once a great'
official at the court. Doesn't it seem to you now all like a spring
dream?" Thereafter 'Su Tungpo called this peasant woman "Mrs.
Spring Dreamer." Sometimes when he was caught in the rain while
stopping at a friend's home, he would borrow the peasant's hat and
waterproof and wooden shoes and come home splashing on the muddy
road. The dogs barked and the neighbours screamed with laughter.
Always when he had the opportunity he continued his habit of prowl-
ing about on a moonlight night, as he did everywhere he went. Some-
times he went with Kuo six miles out to the north-western point of
the coast, where stood a great rock resembling a monk looking out
towards the sea. Many ships were wrecked here, and the local popula-
tion associated that rock with mystic powers. Lichis and oranges grew
in abundance at the foot of the cliff. It was all right to pick the fruit
and eat it there, but if anyone attempted to pick more than he could
eat and carry some away, immediately there would be a storm.

Su Tungpo had always been very kind to the monks, but he didn't
like the priests around Tanchow, who had wives or affairs with
women. While here, he wrote a pointed satire against them. The
entry was called: "The Story of a Girl Who Came Back to Life." It is
supposed to be a true story.

"November, 1098. I am living at Tanchow. I hear that there is
an unmarried girl in the west of the city who died of an illness
and came back to life again after two days. I went along with Ho
Min to see her father and was told the following story. At first, she
felt giddy and fell unconscious. She saw a man who came to lead
her to a magistrates's office in the under-world. Before she entered
the gate someone said that this was a mistake, and another official
said: 'Her time of death hasn't come yet. We should send her back.'
The girl then saw that there was a tunnel underground, and sixty or
seventy per cent of those who were led out and in through this
tunnel of hell were priests. There was a peasant woman sitting oh
the ground in shackles, whose body had grown hair like a donkey's.
The girl recognised her as the mistress of one of the priests. The
woman told her: 1 am being punished for making use of money
and food given by donors to the temple. I have grown three kinds
of hair already.' There was also a monk who lived in the neigh-